Friday, January 18, 2008

Opportunities in Dubai newspapers and the Middle East

By John Cheeran
The most attractive media destination in the Middle East is Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE (United Arab Emirates). A major reason for this is Dubai's liberal approach to life in general. This is very important for media professionals who mainly move in from India, Pakistan and the UK to bring out the city-state's various newspapers.
Dubai Media City is home to a host of medium range publications which thrive by producing in house journals and freemailers for the city's shopping malls. Most of these publications do not last for more than three or four issues.
The key players in the UAE media scene are Khaleej Times, Gulf News, Emirates Business 24x7 and Gulf Today. 7 Days, the daily tabloid, is distributed free and is the bravest in reporting local trends and developments.
For a tiny nation such as the UAE four mainstream newspapers and a tabloid in English is a little too much. These English language newspapers target mainly Indian and Pakistani expatriates and now a growing population of Caucasians.
Khaleej Times is the oldest newspaper in the UAE but Gulf News enjoys the financial muscle to bring out what is considered as a slick newspaper.
Both Khaleej Times and Gulf News bring out a 72-page broadsheet edition daily. Classifieds, supplements and weekend magazines add to the girth of the papers.
For an average Indian journalist intent to earn quick bucks, this is great news -- a whole lot of pages to be made and vast spaces to be filled with news and views.
And more great news is in store. Abu Dhabi, Dubai's rival emirate and the UAE's capital, is launching its own newspaper by the end of April. Recruitment for the yet to be named paper is almost over and former Daily Telegraph, London, editor Martin Newland is the editor-in-chief.
Four English language newspapers make Dubai print media an overcrowded place. Financial Times, London, has a Dubai edition; it is printed and distributed in Dubai.
There are three Arabic newspapers -- Al Bayan, Al Khaleej and Al Ittihad -- that cater to local readership. Apart from this, a host of Malayalam newspapers are being edited and printed in Dubai. Malayala Manorama boasts of a Dubai edition, which is considered to be huge success in terms of locally generated advertising revenue.
And to consider that there was an evening daily -- Emirates Evening Post -- which folded within a year of its launch. ITP, another media group that has base in the Dubai Media City, had plans to launch a business broadsheet, but failed to get the required license from the Federal Ministry of Information.
How vibrant is the journalism in Dubai, and in the Middle East
Khaleej Times and Gulf News are undoubtedly success stories when you look at their revenue. Emirates Business 24x7 is backed by a division of the Dubai Government, but this paper has just survived an identity crisis. It was launched as a quality compact newspaper in 2006 but a few months ago it was redesigned and relaunched as Middle East's first business newspaper.
Gulf Today is being published from Sharjah, the third significant emirate in the UAE. But is just there. You could call it the Free Press Journal of the UAE.
In all these newspapers, local reporting is nothing but a PR exercise. Front pages are always dominated by happenings elsewhere and the most preferred headlines are disaster stories from Baghdad and Lebanon. Railing against the United States and Israel are a must to prove your gravitas.
The majority of the editorial team in the UAE newspapers comes from the Asian subcontinent. So, the quality of the editorial team is as good as you may get in India. Though admitting that all newspapers make mistakes, Gulf News seems to make a few more than others. It comes up with headlines such as Its kick off time instead of It's kick off time, and Tendulkar Celebrates A Quite Birthday instead of Tendulkar Celebrates A Quiet Birthday.
Gulf News was redesigned by Mario Garcia of the Garcia Media in 2004. And it gives Gulf News the cutting edge among the competitors.
As for career opportunities you can grow within the organization but the attrition rate is one of the lowest. That reduces your chances of moving up.
Also unlike India, you cannot switch your jobs easily in the Middle East. Your organization has the rights to impose a two-year ban on you from working for any of the competitors within the UAE, whenever you quit. You can work around these rules, but most often it is not worth the effort.
Also, several employers in the UAE keep the passports of their employees though this is against the UAE Federal Law. Gulf News a few years ago wrote against this flouting of the Federal Law but still the practice continues.In the newsroom, attention is paid to getting the protocol of the rulers right. You can get your facts wrong, grammar wrong, but not the names of rulers or their titles.
How much money you must ask
If you are getting an offer from any of the UAE-based newspapers, you must ask for a monthly salary of Dh 12,000. Converted into Indian Rupees, this may sound a huge amount. But beware. Dirham is pegged to the US dollar and these days 1 Dirham fetches you Rs 10.6.
In 2001, 1 Dirham made you richer by Rs 13. Dollar is predicted to fall further and the UAE is in no mood to break free from the dollar shackles. And inflation is raging in the UAE.
With Dh 12,000 as monthly salary you will have a family visa. But any newcomer to Dubai will have to shell out to the tune of Dh80,000 as annual rent for a one bedroom kitchen flat (1 BHK). Most of them move to the neighbouring emirate Sharjah where real estate prices are cheaper compared to Dubai. In Sharjah the rent for a 1BHK is Dh 40,000.
To live in Sharjah and work in Dubai you need to drive or rely on patchy public transport system. Buying a car is easy in the UAE but getting a driving license is next to impossible. Even if you manage to get the driving license, your progress will be stalled by traffic congestion. It takes roughly two and half hours to reach Dubai from Sharjah, which is 30 kilometers.Your minimum grocery bill will be around Dh 2000. A cylinder of gas costs you Dh 92. Till six months, it was only Dh 76.You will have to pay extra for your water and electricity and which are highly reliable. (on an average Dh 200 per month). Thank god, there are no power shortages.
Healthcare is highly expensive if you have no family insurance coverage. Sharjah does not have nightclubs and it is no liquor zone. You can rely on your apartment's watchman to get your booze.
You can enjoy your life in Dubai with its hundreds of nightclubs and bars. (A mug of beer costs Dh 20.) In Dubai, if you are a non-Muslim, you can get a liquor permit to buy the booze from official outlets.
If you have a school going child, you will have to shell out minimum Dh 500 per month.
Roughly, this is how your average monthly expenses will add up:Monthly Salary Dirhams 12,000Monthly Rent Dh 7,000Water and Electricity Dh 200Monthly Grocery Bill Dh 2000Cable TV Connection, Internet (Monthly) Dh 350.Phone Bills (Cell phone plus landline) Minimum Dh 300.School Fees Dh 500Entertainment, Eating out Dh 1,000 per monthExpenditure Total Dh 11,350.Income Total Dh 12,000.(Note: These figures are based on 2007 prices)Still, if you want to dig for gold in Dubai and the UAE, good luck to you.
(Originally published at


Anonymous said...

what are the prospects for malayalam journalists in Dubai and middle east? Can u name a few good publications?

Anonymous said...

is it advisable /worthwhile for a fresh graduate from ACJ to start his/her career in UAE (person grew up in UAE)

sudha said...

How can freelancers get in touch with the right people in the newspaper world to get published? It is very difficult to know the right contacts in 7 days or gulf news or any other pubication. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks

Lekshmi said...

how can someone working as a journalist(news media) get a job as a journalist in any media in dubai ??

lazywriter said...


Could you advise me on some english online freelance opps there in dbx. I am based here and a bit handicapped. Drop by sometime


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